NBA introduces significant initiatives to enhance performance, training and development of referees

NEW YORK – The NBA announced today a comprehensive plan to further strengthen its officiating program.  The introduction of several new initiatives continues recent efforts to bring additional transparency to the program and use advanced technologies to enhance the performance, training, development and recruitment of referees.

The announcement follows a thorough six-month review of the NBA’s officiating program conducted by recently-appointed President, League Operations, Byron Spruell, who oversees Basketball and Referee Operations at the league office.

“Our focus with these new initiatives is to build on the already-existing strengths of our officiating program and ensure maximum effectiveness of our officials,” said Spruell.  “With an eye toward continuous improvement, these measures will put our officials in an even better position to succeed in this demanding role and reinforce the NBA’s commitment to transparency.”

The NBA is launching an Officiating Advisory Council to focus on areas of improvement for the officiating program and the future of officiating.  The council will include retired General Martin E. Dempsey, who was the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan; two distinguished former NBA players and current television analysts, Doug Collins and Kenny Smith; and former longtime NBA referee Steve Javie.  The Council will also include current players, coaches and referees who will be named at a later date.

The NBA is also announcing the following steps:

  • Increase the officiating staff by 25 percent within three years, including 10 percent by next season, through a more diverse and comprehensive approach to sourcing and hiring.
  • Use a new, data-driven game review system to create objective referee measurement standards and track progress regarding call accuracy and errors per game over multiple seasons.
  • Leverage technology to develop innovative methods to train officials, including the use of virtual reality.
  • Improve and expand the process by which teams inquire about specific plays or offer input on the officiating program.
  • Install a newly-created postgame survey process for coaches to share officiating feedback in real time.
  • Develop guidelines and establish forums to improve decorum and in-game communications among players, coaches and referees.
  • Introduce a new scheduling system to optimize the chemistry and composition of officiating crews and ensure rest for individual referees.

These newly-announced initiatives are the latest in a series of improvements to the officiating program.  The NBA expanded the use of its state-of-the-art Replay Center, unveiled a replay video archive and initiated real-time postings on its social media assets of the replays used by officials to make calls during replay reviews.  In other moves to increase transparency, the NBA added referee names alongside calls in official play-by-play reports and now shares play-by-play reports detailing all calls and material non-calls that occur in the last two minutes.

The NBA will continue to use the NBA Development League (which will become the NBA Gatorade League next season) to train referees and experiment with new approaches to officiating.